Prenatal psychosocial stress exposure is associated with insulin resistance in young adults

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Nov;199(5):498.e1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2008.03.006. Epub 2008 Apr 29.


Objective: The objective of the study was to examine the association in humans between maternal psychosocial stress exposure during pregnancy and measures of glucose-insulin metabolism in the adult offspring.

Study design: Healthy young adults whose mothers experienced major stressful life events during their pregnancy (n = 36, prenatal stress, PS group, mean age 25 +/- 5.14 [SD] years) and a comparison group (n = 22, CG, mean age 24 +/- 3.7 [SD] years) underwent an oral glucose tolerance test.

Results: Glucose levels were not significantly different across the groups; however, prenatally stressed subjects showed significantly elevated 2-hour insulin (P = .01) and C-peptide levels (P = .03). These differences were independent of other major risk factors for insulin resistance, including birth phenotype (birthweight, length of gestation), a family history of diabetes, gestational diabetes, body mass index, proinflammatory state, and smoking.

Conclusion: Higher insulin responses reflect relative insulin resistance in these prenatally stressed young adults. This study is the first to provide evidence for a link in humans between prenatal psychosocial stress exposure and alterations in glucose-insulin metabolic function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / blood
  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • C-Peptide / blood
  • Female
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Leptin / blood
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Adiponectin
  • Blood Glucose
  • C-Peptide
  • Insulin
  • Leptin